Red Alert

Archive for the ‘digital’ Category

Should notification of data breaches be mandatory?

Posted by on April 3rd, 2013

The Privacy Commissioner Marie Shroff last week told us that public trust is being eroded by government sector breaches. She said  government agencies have huge databases of information which the public is forced to provide, and in return they need to look after that information properly and that public sector agencies needed to have stronger controls in place when handling spread sheets of personal information.

Last year she warned us that the public sector can’t afford to be complacent. It’s quite clear that agencies holding large amounts of personal information need to place greater value on that information asset. They need to develop strong leadership and a culture of respect for privacy, as well as day to day policies and practices to provide trustworthy stewardship of our personal information at every level of the organisation. There has been far too little focus on the fact that there are real people behind the masses of information that government agencies hold.

Data breach notification isn’t currently required by law, but the Law Commission recently recommended that it should be made compulsory where breaches put people at risk. That would bring New Zealand law into line with practice overseas.

The private sector has warned repeatedly that New Zealand has a major problem with information security, and a strategy released late last year by a group of  IT security professionals said that although technological innovation is high within the New Zealand market, the national spend on educating, training, and developing skilled technical personnel is surprisingly low, creating an imbalance and directly contributing to the fragility and vulnerability of our nation’s IT systems. If that is not a significant warning, I do not know what is.

Last week the chief executive officer of the  Institute of IT Professionals, Paul Matthews, said that the Earthquake Commission had failed Security 101 and that it was  mickey mouse stuff that such sensitive information could be sent so easily to an outside person.

We are daily finding out about more data breaches, which indicates that they are commonplace.

The solutions aren’t off the shelf, but the Government’s refusal to treat the breaches as systemic, requiring the highest attention is very concerning.

The reason for many breaches will no doubt lie in the way each department and agencies IT systems have grown. Privacy and security systems are unlikely to have been built into these systems from the very beginning. Many issues can be resolved through training people using the systems in simple procedures to protect data. IT solutions exists to provide password protected spreadsheets being sent out as attachments and sometimes to prevent email attachments fullstop.

An across government response is required with a Chief Technology Officer with clout responsible to the Prime Minister. Our approach to information security is 20th century and inexcusable. I fear the public service is ill resourced to deal with the ongoing breaches we have faced and will face.

Instead, we have a Prime Minister who shrugs his shoulders and dismisses the breaches as “inevitable, human error and a trade-off”. He may rue those remarks.

NB: have attempted to contact Threat Toons for copyright permission. But have repeatedly been blocked from accessing their site. Might be the title. Happy to continue trying

Now for something completely different

Posted by on November 2nd, 2012

Next Members’ Day, my bill, the Local Government (Public Libraries) Amendment bill will have its first reading in parliament.

The bill, originally drafted by Labour MP Grant Robertson, was drawn from the ballot a couple of months back and as its sponsor, I’ve been on an exploration of the wonderful services our Public Libraries and librarians provide.

I admit that while I’ve been a fan of public libraries for years, going back to my childhood and the childhood of my son, I haven’t been a regular visitor recently. So this bill has re-ignited my passion for libraries, for books, for knowledge, for history. It’s been wonderful seeing the national treasure of our public library services, from the small local library to those with bigger collections.  These are indeed national taonga.

Public libraries play an important role in our communities. They give everyone access to information and improve literacy and reading.  They are community hubs for a range of activities, and they help strength local communities.

Who could ever imagine that our libraries could be at risk, yet with the government’s focus on Local Government costs, with a nasty bill due to be reported back soon, increasingly, strapped Local Authorities may turn their attention to library services and more charges.

New Zealand has no legislation that guarantees free public libraries. We are out of step internationally with countries such as Australia, the United Kingdom and Canada – all of which protect free public library services via legislation. We are not meeting UNESCO guidelines where public libraries in principle should be free of charge and the responsibility of local and national authorities, financed by national and local governments.

My bill will help New Zealand meet UNESCO guidelines, address the issue of user charges and ensure that NZ’s public libraries are an essential component of any long-term strategy for culture, information provision, literacy and education.

Our Library services should not be bound by an individual’s ability to pay, but that is becoming increasingly the case. Statistics show that introduction of user charges result in lower usage of public libraries and this in turn directly impacts on our communities’ literacy outcomes – it adds to inequality by denying access to those who can least afford to pay.

Then there’s our precious collections, which store our history.  Imagine these being developed on a user pays basis?  Do we really want unbalanced, profit-driven libraries that cater only for immediate, popular choices, rather than non-profitable alternatives?

We are becoming an e-society, but without libraries and free access to e-government and other services, the digital divide will expand.  It’s almost impossible to do anything these days without access to the internet – even looking for a job, where advertisements and applications are usually done on-line. Information about government services are increasingly only available through the internet.

Libraries play an important role in bridging the digital divide for those without personal computers or other devices.

There’s many reasons for this bill, but the most important one is keeping our public libraries free for all users.

If you want to support the bill, go to the Keep Public Libraries free facebook page or the website for the Library Information Association of NZ (Lianza)

Most important of all, let your MP know where you stand on this issue.

How serious is the digital divide?

Posted by on July 25th, 2012

Have been sitting in the Education  Select Ctte for the last month or so, hearing submissions  on an inquiry into 21st century learning environment and digital literacy.

Am increasingly concerned at the consistent message to us that there is:

1. A digital divide in NZ where some schools have much better connectivity, access to technology and children are taught in an environment which incorporates the digital world, compared with schools that don’t have much of either.

2. This divide is growing, not lessening as broadband rolls out slowly to schools, prioritising higher decile areas. That the digital learning environment is not consistently supported across schools.

There have been some great examples of schools that are early adopters, have talented and committed staff which are driving change in how technology is used and the way teachers teach. But it’s not consistent.

It’s becoming clear that the learning environment and the digital environment are intertwined. Our kids need digital skills for their futures. There are however some significant barriers to this occuring.

Quantifying NZ’s digital divide is critical.

Just do it

Posted by on December 27th, 2011

I meant to write about this a few days ago.

US comedian Louis CK (I hadn’t heard of him, but he seems pretty popular) decided to produce a good version of his latest live show and make it available online for $5.

Nek Minnit (well 12 days later) he made $1 million.

The Age reported today:

Comedian Louis CK has proved a point: People are willing to pay a reasonable amount of money for DRM-free content from a performer they love, even though it would be trivial for them to pirate the same content for free.

Twelve days ago, Louis CK decided to skip the distribution, DRM, ads and everything else that goes into marketing and sale of a video, and simply offer the video of his latest performance on his website for $US5.

It took four days for Louis to earn $US200,000, and another 8 days to earn a whopping $US1 million.

It  blows out the water the view that content has to be locked up with laws to enforce it because too many people will only steal it. In fact people will pay money to get access to new content. If the price is right and the product is what they want.

Louis CK posted a blog saying he would keep just $220,000 from his $1m.

He said:

So I’m breaking the million into four pieces.

the first 250k is going to pay back what the special cost to produce and the website to build.

The second 250k is going back to my staff and the people who work for me on the special and on my show. I’m giving them a big fat bonus.

The third 280k is going to a few different charities. They are listed below in case you’d like to donate to them also. Some of these i learned about through friends, some were recomended through twitter.

That leaves me with 220k for myself. Some of that will pay my rent and will care for my children. The rest I will do terrible, horrible things with and none of that is any of your business. In any case, to me, 220k is enough out of a million.

I had a quick look at Louis CK’s stuff. Here is is a clip on Youtube (not the $5 version). Pretty out there, but worth paying for. I think the business model is pretty obvious. It’s just a pity that he had to spend the money himself upfront to develop the tools to distribute his work.

Imagine if that technology was readily available to artists for a small fee. Imagine if the New Zealand tech industry was encouraged to go for it.

Another point to end on. Digital Rights Management (DRM) is the technology used by hardware manufacturers, publishers, copyright holders and individuals with the intent to limit the use of digital content and devices after sale.

Companies such as Amazon, AOL, Apple Inc., the BBC, Microsoft and Sony use digital rights management. In 1998 the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) was passed in the United States to impose criminal penalties on those who make available technologies whose primary purpose and function is to circumvent content protection technologies.[1] The use of digital rights management is controversial. Corporations claim that DRM is necessary to fight copyright infringement online and that it can help the copyright holder maintain artistic control[2] or ensure continued revenue streams.[3] Those opposed to DRM argue that there is no evidence that DRM helps prevent copyright infringement and that DRM helps big business stifle innovation and competition.[4] Proponents argue that digital locks should be considered necessary to prevent intellectual property from being stolen, just as physical locks are needed to prevent personal property from being stolen.

I thought it was interesting that I learnt about Louis CK’s online  business endeavours through twitter via the ABC’s managing director Mark Scott who tweeted:

“The comedian (is) providing lessons in the future of digital rights management”.

Prescience from the head of Australia’s public broadcaster. It would be good to have a bit more debate about it here.

If we want to be a digital nation, we need digital Kiwis

Posted by on November 11th, 2011

Kids who don’t have access to computers at home and not much access at school will benefit from Labour’s education policy released yesterday by Phil Goff and Sue Moroney.

If we want a nation of digital Kiwis who make NZ a digital nation with decent paying jobs in the tech world, then all of us need access to the technology. It’s that simple.

New Zealand?s economic future lies in weightless exports. The future of the nation relies on Kiwi children becoming digital Kiwis. We can’t have kids leaving school without good digitial skills becasue they come from a  poor background where there’s no computer at home and no money to connect to the internet. Or where their school can’t afford to buy computers or mobile devices for the kids.

Access to technology can help close the gap between rich and poor. The country must not have a digital divide. Labour believes some of our greatest innovation can come out of our most deprived areas. The new broadband network must not be a tool to entrench the divide between the haves and the have nots.

Computers in Homes (2020 Communications Trust) estimates that there are 100,000 families with dependent children who do not have access to a computer at home. Around 20% of New Zealand households currently do not have a computer. They are more likely to be one-parent households and from Maori and Pasifika backgrounds where children are unable to participate equitably in digital learning and using technology.

While programs such as Computers in Homes, Computer Clubhouse and Aotearoa People?s Network do great work in increasing digital literacy, their success is sporadic because of limited funding. Labour will boost that funding.

And to increase the connectedness and literacy for many New Zealand households is to leverage the education system by ensuring every child has access to a device. Labour’s education policy announced this:

Labour will invest $75 million over four years in “e-learning? for low-decile schools, with priority going to schools with year 7 -13 students and the capability to deliver an effective programme . This includes Government funding for students to have individual use of a mobile device.

$19 million per year is sufficient funding to ensure 31,000 year 7 to 13 students have individual use of a mobile device. When Labour takes office we will determine which schools are best placed to benefit from e-learning based on a number of factors. Priority will be given to low-decile schools with high levels of disengagement and/or low levels of academic achievement, as well as those schools that have staff prepared to lead an effective e-learning programme.

I visited the Enderley Computer Clubhouse in Hamilton yesterday. I saw kids from poor families who turn up every day after school because they can use hi tech equipment to create online games and make their own music clips and other things. These are kids with talent, who would have no way to access this hi tech equipment and might otherwise be roaming the streets. I can see a future for them. That could benefit the nation.

New Zealand needs more young innovators. We need the pathways for them to get from school into further learning and jobs that pay well. Let’s make the most of our kids. All of them.

A new public broadcaster

Posted by on November 1st, 2011

1. There is no public television broadcaster in NZ. Our public broadcasting environment is depleted. Labour believes a strong, independent, free public media service  NOT driven by commercial interests is essential to an informed democracy.

2. A Labour Government will immediately start a debate to establish a new non-commercial public broadcaster. It will include the functions of Radio NZ and TVNZ7. It will consider other functions. So to be clear we will keep TVNZ7. Radio NZ will retain its autonomy. We will strengthen them and may add services. We will ensure the governance of the new broadcaster is more arms length from government.

3. It will exist in the digital environment. Therefore it spans the traditional broadcasting telco industry and internet realms. This is called convergence. Labour has already signalled a converged regulatory environment for broadcasting and telco sectors.

4. A public and industry (broadcasting and telco sectors) debate will take place on the final shape and funding mechanisms. There are a range of options to be canvassed. The debate is important because it will be a New Zealand broadcaster that belongs to all of us and is about us. The lack of a public broadcaster has been debated. The shape of a future one has not. That debate has been sorely missing.

4. We don’t anticipate any extra cost to the taxpayer. We will asking the sectors how they think it should be funded. The outcome could be a mix of options. We are not prejudging or anticipating the outcome of this. The debate hasn’t been had. Many stakeholders are keen to have it.

5. The debate will be concluded within a year and it is anticipated that decisions will be made and any regulatory and other changes underway.

This is a significant policy. It marks an important change towards a contemporary Kiwi approach to protecting and promoting our culture in the 21st Century. It’s a commitment not made lightly and it’s a commitment we will see through.

I hope you agree.

Labour will establish a new, modern public broadcaster

Posted by on November 1st, 2011

Here’s the policy link.

It new, it’s modern. It’s not a we might do it, We will do it. We’ll have a debate first. Then we’ll decide the funding mechanism and the new shape. The policy sets out how we’ll do it.

Will blog further about it soon.

Thinking outside the square #2

Posted by on October 16th, 2011

There’s a fundamental shift in communications and media that’s blurring what used to be clear distinctions between telecommunications, broadcasting and the internet.

The digital environment is seeing computing and other information technologies, media content, and communication networks merging and transforming. Fast. It’s called convergence.

Steve Jobs turned a company that made computers (Apple Macs) into one that made music devices (iPods) iphones and iPads.

Google started off as a computer search engine. It developed gmail, a web browser (Chrome), then it moved into the smartphone business with its android operating system. As an agregator of news content across all platforms it is now starting to compete with existing news organisations and now it has entered the smart TV market with its Google  interactive TV product.

Newspapers now deliver their breaking news via websites and social media, often using video clips.

TVs are increasingly turning to the internet to deliver content as well as the traditional means. You can now send emails, access the internet and watch news and TV and even movies on your phone.

What used to be our state public television broadcaster TVNZ has signalled it wants to enter the pay TV market which is currently dominated by one player Sky. It already provides content through Sky. There’s no rules and there is an ongoing debate about the implications of deals done with networks to carry content over the Ultra Fast Broadband network.

As the technologies converge, a number of issues arise for policy makers around the networks that will be needed to carry both content produced inside New Zealand and which comes from outside the country.

Steven Joyce doesn’t seem to believe convergence is occuring

Labour does.

Australia is undertaking a landmark review of Australian media and communications regulation.

Canada has just released a regulatory framework for media ownership to address unfair competition.

Malaysia, the EU, the UK, Korea, Japan, Taiwan, South Africa… have all gone down this path.

Labour will release its ICT policy on Monday.

Our broadcasting policy will follow soon.

Thinking outside the square

Posted by on October 15th, 2011

Some important questions to ponder:

  • Should technology be a priority industry for growth?
  • Could New Zealand become a world leader in the use of digital technology, to transform New Zealand economically and socially?
  • Is a strong and vibrant ICT sector a platform to improve all areas of NZ’s economy and society.
  • Just how important is the digital environment as core infrastructure for the New Zealand of the future?

If it is, what do we need to do to get there

Labour will release its ICT policy on Monday.

I’ve always thought Information Communications Technology (ICT) was a bit of a cumbersome name. It’s time we called our policy something sexy

Can we work together on some things?

Posted by on July 4th, 2011

The internet was conceived on the ideas of equality and access. People sharing and making new things happen.

In the spirit of this, I participated in a panel discussion last Friday at NetHui in Auckland. The topic was  government and openness. What it might look like in 2020.

During the discussion I asked my fellow politicians on the panel, Nikki Kaye, National and Gareth Hughes, Green, if we could form a cross parliamentary group to see where we could find some commonalities on the important issues facing us in becoming more open.

They agreed. Our first meeting could be this week. We’ll keep you posted.

If you’d like to see the panel discussion click here

One of the most powerful of speeches…

Posted by on July 3rd, 2011

Late last week I spent a day and a half at NetHui in Auckland. Couldn’t make the full 3 days. It’s a new initiative, organised by InternetNZ.

It will be an annual event. That all MPs should attend and all of you.

It was all about the internet. What it means for us. What the opportunities and the scary challenges are. And that it’s about equality.

Lawrence Lessig was the keynote speaker.

Some takeout messages:

  • Kids, dropouts, outsiders have been the innovators and have developed the major changes on the internet
  • The internet is about reviving a culture of passive consumption to re-creating a culture of sharing, participation and making new stuff.
  • The need for truth tellers about the network.
  • The enormous challenges for policy-makers and law makers. One of which is for politicians to move away from a culture of being funded  and therefore influenced by private interests. To halt law-making by lobbyists. And consider other ways.
  • How NZ could become a beacon of light in showing the way forward on many of the issues that arise because of the internet

If you watch nothing else for a while, watch his speech. It’s on Youtube in 3 parts.

Part 2 is here

Part 3 is here

It’s time for a complete review of our copyright laws

Posted by on June 4th, 2011

I agree with this.

It’s time for a complete review of our IP laws in NZ.

UN Report Says Internet Three Strikes Laws Violate International Law
Friday June 03, 2011
The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression has released an important new report that examines freedom of expression on the Internet.  The report is very critical of rules such as graduated response/three strikes, arguing that such laws may violate the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Canada became a member in 1976). Moreover, the report expresses concerns with notice-and-takedown systems, noting that it is subject to abuse by both governments and private actors.

On the issue of graduated response, the report states:

he is alarmed by proposals to disconnect users from Internet access if they violate intellectual property rights. This also includes legislation based on the concept of “graduated response”, which imposes a series of penalties on copyright infringers that could lead to suspension of Internet service, such as the so-called “three strikes-law” in France and the Digital Economy Act 2010 of the United Kingdom.

Beyond the national level, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) has been proposed as a multilateral agreement to establish international standards on intellectual property rights enforcement. While the provisions to disconnect individuals from Internet access for violating the treaty have been removed from the final text of December 2010, the Special Rapporteur remains watchful about the treaty’s eventual implications for intermediary liability and the right to freedom of expression.

In light of these concerns, the report argues that the Internet disconnection is a disproportionate response, violates international law and such measures should be repealed in countries that have adopted them:

The trashing of politics and media

Posted by on May 15th, 2011

I’ve been writing for a while about the degradation of quality media in this country and building a case for strengthening it.

I have also written at various times about how cynicism towards politics and politicians has become like a cancer in our society. That it creates distance and distrust between people and politicians and has made the practice of democracy somewhat of a farce.

A couple of weeks ago a former senior Australian politician, Lindsay Tanner released a book called Sideshow, dumbing down democracy, which delved into both these subjects. Lindsay was Minister of Finance in the Labor Government and unexpectedly resigned at the last election. I have enormous respect for him as a man and a politician.

He writes of the mass disillusionment with politics in Australia and describes how politicians have become increasingly robotic, with scripted stunts and gimicks.

He talks of the pressures on media to be competitive and the impact of technology-change which has squeezed out much of the commercial media’s ability to be serious and considered about national politics. Instead, commercial media has become a zone of ultra sensationalsim, personalities, celebrities, trivia and gimicks. And politicians have responded by becoming more defensive and robotic to protect themselves.

He says nobody is particularly to blame, it’s the market pressures. But that two crafts; politics and serious journalism, have been trashed in the process.

Sound familiar? I think it’s worse here in NZ  because we don’t have the diversity of media that Australia has. But the hunger for trivia is increasing.

And as Kris Faafoi said in the debate in parliament last week on the Bill that axes the TVNZ Charter, the news on TV is becoming less important than the ad breaks in between news items. One could sometimes say indistinguishable from ad breaks.

We need serious debate about these issues in our country. If you’re interested; listen to Lindsay Tanner being interviewed on Australian Sky News by political editor David Speers.

And then watch the ABC’s MediaWatch clip which lays out in frightening detail the subsequent media coverage of Tanner’s book launch, in precisely the way he predicted it would play out in the media. As an attack on the government of which he was previously a part. Despite him trying to generate discussion about how the media interacts with politics.

How do we get critical analysis and discussion back into our public discourse in this country? That’s a pretty important and urgent question I think. It’s unlikely to come through commercial broadcast media. That leaves the depleted public broadcast media. And print, which faces similar issues. The demise of NZPA has raised some critical issues for our news media generally as we  will soon no longer have a national news agency.

Do New Zealanders care? Jonathan Coleman, the undistinguished Minister of Broadcasting, thinks they don’t. He reckons we all want to exist on a diet of reality TV. Do we really? And what do we do when our news and reality TV become indistinguishable?

The terrible twos

Posted by on May 5th, 2011


Today Red Alert turns two.

It’s funny but we seem older. Not sure about wiser. But we are a credible and established force in the New Zealand political blogosphere.

Most Labour MPs blog . Most of us are active on facebook. Many of us are on Twitter. These are our real voices. We don’t always agree with each other, but we do share common values.

We’re focussed, we’re pretty tough and we have hearts. We also have ideas.

Most importantly we say what we think so we can talk to you; our readers, commenters, critics and supporters. Tell us what you’re thinking about us and don’t hold back (within reason).

What do you like about us, what do you want from us?

PS: And I promise the edit function on the comments is coming

Some facts:

  • 3,545 posts
  • Most posts: well who do you think? Trevor Mallard 1020
  • Next most posts: me on 519 (I’m a bit behind)
  • Newest poster: Annette King
  • Interesting new regular posts: Play of the Day, Tweet of the Week

PS: I forgot to thank my fellow moderators. Trevor, Grant and Chippie (Mr Hipkins). We work well together. We have occasional intense discussions, but we exercise our responsibility fairly and without prejudice (as long as you don’t cross the line). For those who disagree our moderation policy is here.

Why Key needs to get offshore advice on broadband

Posted by on April 21st, 2011

I’ve known Bruce Parkes for years. Straightshooter. Like him. Always knew where he came from. Believed Telecom should use it’s superior market position to slow competitors entry.

But with the High Court judgement quoted below showing how he illegally tilted the playing field in Telecom’s favour he can not be the principal policy advisor on a plan which abolishes regulatory oversight of Telecom’s broadband. It gives them a blank cheque to overcharge much of the country for a decade.

Even before the court decision the sector was revolting. This revelation means that there needs to be a quick expert inquiry into both the decision to favour Telecom and the process that resulted in a very unusual decision.

Because of the vested interests involved the expert(s) will have to come from offshore.

The judgement said interalia:-

The senior Telecom executive named by High Court judge Rodney Hansen in his judgment penalising the telco for historic breaches to Commerce Act, is now a senior civil servant with oversight of the government’s broadband investments.

Bruce Parkes is currently Deputy Secretary at the Ministry of Economic Development for the Energy and Communications Branch. Among his responsibilities, according to his profile on the MED website, are ICT policy and the Ultra Fast Broadband plan. “In conjunction with Crown Fibre Holdings, this group will continue to implement work on the ultra-fast broadband policy, with the immediate aim of settling initial negotiations with potential providers,” reads the profile.

The internet and the future: the music industry

Posted by on April 17th, 2011

This is the first of a series of posts on how the internet is shaping our future. Imagine if a consortium of internet companies decided to buy out the music industry.  Get rid of labels and sell music direct to consumers, cheaply. How might that change the nature of things?


New Zealand’s passing of copyright law this week has sparked a fresh round of intense debate and scrutiny on how to address  the behaviour of a large number of New Zealanders on the internet who are illegally downloading music, movies and other content.

Many people either do not know they are downloading illegally or don’t feel they are doing anything wrong.

And for many, its the easiest way to get access to what they want to hear or watch.

Unfortunately,  the creators of that content (the artists) miss out on payment.  The traditional distributors of the content, the movie studios and music labels wield considerable influence in New Zealand and around the world in convincing governments to pass strict laws to prohibit filesharing. But they are slow to develop new ways to distribute their content easily and legally  to people via the internet.

But they’re not slow to use their muscle to protect their outdated business models.

What do they expect people to do? The pressure is mounting as we’re all seeing by the intense reaction to the Copyright Law this week.

What if things were to change? Would the need for such copyright laws still be necessary if people could easily, legally and cheaply access what they wanted, when they wanted it.

Consider this, an extract from a piece written by UK-based open government and open source advocate  Glynn Moody

… the music industry is economically quite small and unimportant compared to the computer industry. And yet somehow – through honed lobbying and old boy networks – it wields a disproportionate power that enables it to block innovative ideas that the online world wants to try.

On a rational basis, the music industry’s concerns would be dwarfed by those of the computer world, which is not just far larger, but vastly more important in strategic terms. But instead, the former gets to make all kinds of hyperbolic claims about the alleged “damage” inflicted by piracy on its income, even though these simply don’t stand up to analysis.

… how about if Google *did* buy the music industry? That would solve its licensing problems at a stroke. Of course, the anti-trust authorities around the world would definitely have something to say about this, so it might be necessary to tweak the idea a little.

How about if a consortium of leading Internet companies – Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, Baidu, Amazon etc. – jointly bought the entire music industry, and promised to license its content to anyone on a non-discriminatory basis?

At the very least, the idea ought to send a shiver down the spine of the fat-cats currently running the record labels, and encourage them to stop whining so much just in case they make the thought of firing them all too attractive to the people whose lives they are currently making an utter misery….

It’s quite possible this is based on Google spin. But it’s certainly interesting to contemplate. I’d like to see a major shake-up in both industries.

And I think governments have a responsiblity to ensure that consumers are able to access content: music, movies, entertainment legally and in a competive environment where they have choice and fair prices. And where there is a thriving environment for the creators (those inside New Zealand). The debate needs to be about how we make that happen. Yes?

The Great Broadband Sell-off

Posted by on March 18th, 2011

Yesterday’s FEC hearings on the Telco Amendment Bill were remarkable.

By the end of the day it was starkly obvious that the Bill hands a gold-plated license-to-kill to Telecom under the guise of ‘structural separation’.  No-one, not even Govt members, could deny that.

Don’t take my word for it: check out the Commerce Commission submission, or (bipartisan) Internet New Zealand’s, or Vector’s, or TelstraClear’s – all here.

The Bill seeks to lock in a “regulatory holiday” by preventing the Commerce Commission from exercising its current oversight for 10 YEARS.  NO other country in the world has done that, and it would be illegal in Europe. It may be in breach of NZ’s WTO obligations here.

Despite that Telecom had the gall to ask for longer! And to weaken the purpose clause of the Telco Act to boot! Have they lost their PR mind? Do they want to channel the ghost of abuses past?

Fair trading “equivalence of inputs” rules between the network owner (Telecom) and wholesale competitors would be watered down so much as to be unenforceable.  Arms-length trading rules currently in Telecom’s Operational Separation Undertakings become “optional”.

And so on.  It’s so patently obvious it is not even worth repeating all the examples.

No wonder Steven Joyce wanted the hearings over in indecent haste.

The result of this great leap backwards to the 1990’s will be much higher prices and less choice for consumers for a decade.  YOU will pay for this sleazy deal.

So WHY has the National Government done this?

Roger Douglas summed it up – it is a “legislative subsidy”: National is ‘selling the law”.

In plain speaking, National in the last election over-promised ultra-fast broadband to 75% of Kiwis for $1.5 billion.  But rather than being a clean subsidy there were massive strings attached, requiring a commercial return through the hopelessly conflicted Crown Fibre Holdings.    The numbers just did not add up.

Hence no rollout for 2½ years, and Steven Joyce is worried about his reputation.

But instead of fronting the problem honestly and getting the whole industry to be part of the solution while building a vibrant competitive market, National has done a side-deal with the incumbent telco that leaves everyone else worse off and the market beggared beyond belief.

That will set back innovation, chill investment and deliver less broadband at higher prices than necessary for a decade to come.

As if Kiwis aren’t facing enough price rises without paying too much for their broadband as well.

Competition and public service

Posted by on March 10th, 2011

Ok. So the headline isn’t very sexy.

But why has the government bailed out Mediaworks with a $43 million low interest deferred payment for its radio spectrum licence while it appears set on axing funding for TVNZ7,  the new and vibrant young digital public channel?

I’m not having a go at Mediaworks here. They’re an important part of our media. But surely TVNZ 7; an innovation which doesn’t cost much and is tackling how to deliver dynamic Kiwi content in a low cost but accessible format is something to be nurtured. It’s ours. It’s a public service. It’s a treasure. But apparently one that’s not valued by this government.

The cuts to TVNZ 7 funding haven’t been announced yet. But it’s clear they will be and we’ll lose some of the best shows to grace our screens in recent years; Media7, Backbenchers to name a couple.

TVNZ, our supposed public broadcaster, has been clearly told to stop doing the public bit and focus solely on delivering a profit back to the government. Which it’s doing. Sort of. Though much of what it delivers us isn’t produced by Kiwis about Kiwis.

Radio NZ struggles to keep its head above water.

And we have a very big player, Sky, which has captured 50% of NZ households and is doing very nicely thank you. Which you can’t fault because they’ve had pretty much a free run for years.

What’s wrong with our broadcasting (media) industry?

It’s not rocket science to conclude that if we don’t have a competitive private sector then we don’t have healthy industry. We don’t get innovation, investment, new markets opening up, old ones dying off.

And if we don’t have a strong public service, we don’t have a healthy society. It’s why we pay our taxes. It’s the glue that binds us.

A competitive private sector and a strong public service are not mutually exclusive.

A strong modern public media is critical to a functioning democracy.

I’m in London at the moment. The BBC, Channel 4, ITV are all hugely important. Critical analysis, breaking news, quality (and some rubbish) local content. It’s all part of the mix. The Brits are pretty well served by their media.

There are some double standards at work here. And blinkers on. You can’t give a break to one part of the industry and leave another in the cold. And you need some rules. That’s why government can’t be hands off.

The problems don’t just span the last two years. Let’s be honest. But it’s time we sorted it out. Because we’ll be a poorer country without a healthy media.

What to do with your iPad

Posted by on February 20th, 2011

Thought those among us who have recently acquired iPads might find this useful. Was sent to me by an early adopter; one of the first in NZ to acquire the iPad.

No doubt he’s busy acquiring the next version. If he hasn’t already. He knows who he is.

Here’s some useful things to do with the iPad. No doubt I’ll get ticked off for the post being too long.

Given I’m the communications and IT spokesperson, I figure a bit of community service doesn’t go astray. Can’t be combatative and argumentative all the time.

Here’s a taste: (Note this is not my list. Click on the link above. The list goes on to include music, food, travel, entertainment, reading,science, banking, shopping…

What are the must-have iPad apps? Why?



Hat tip: LW

NB: Twitter I already did. Flipboard is great.

Farrar deliberately a loser ?

Posted by on February 20th, 2011

As readers know Ive followed iPredict since before it launched. Interesting concept which needs a bit more development yet.

Over the last few weeks I’ve noticed some strange reactions to price changes on selected stocks and decided last night to test it out a bit.

What I’d noticed when I’d been buying stocks – especially on a Labour win in Auckland Central which on current polling is very close and certainly worth more than the 25 – 30% iPredict has been offering them at – that there appeared to be a computer generated reaction which automatically offered them for sale at a price one to two cents cheaper than the last sale.

So what is happening is that someone is deliberately selling them at less than what people are prepared to pay.

And that’s what happened twice last night.

But what was even more interesting was that I was able to marginally move one traders returns and net worth by purchasing the stocks.

You guessed it – DPF.

Farrar tops the top 100 investors in iPredict. Yet he is nowhere on the top 100 for returns.

So what does this mean?

1. Despite portraying himself as the ultimate insider, he has very little idea about politics, and never has a good hunch.

2. He doesn’t know what to do with the intel he has.

3. He is not currently trying to make money but to move the market, on his on behalf or as an agent for his employers (National Party rather than taxpayer who fund most of his income) to support certain political perceptions.

4. All of the above.